Every singer works on improving their RESONANCE. The Pharynx is the voice's primary resonator. It's divided into 3 sections. There's the LaryngoPharynx (Larynx space), OroPharynx (Mouth space), and NasoPharynx (Nasal space). Lowering the LARYNX increases the darker Resonances of the voice. Raising the Larynx makes the sound brighter. Opening the MOUTH makes the sound appear stronger. A narrow or neutral mouth position increases Head Resonance and often the beauty of the tone. NASAL Resonance is added when the soft palate is lowered. This provides flexibility to the voice and assists with vocal placement. All these important Resonance adjustments take place in the 3 sections of the Pharynx. There's so much great singing going on in the back of your mouth!
Have you ever felt like you can't inhale DEEPLY? Try a Resistance Breath! First, create a tiny opening at your lips like drinking through a straw. Second, place your finger in front of your lips. Third, inhale the air. Be sure to make it somewhat difficult to take in the air. The sound should be a bit noisy (like slurping a milkshake through a straw) and should take a while (10 to 20 seconds). For added awareness, place a hand on your abdomen or on your ribcage. Notice what happens as you draw in the breath. See how far you can expand the ribcage and how much you can allow the abdomen to relax. This tool is used by athletes, people with breathing disorders, and…. you guessed it… SINGERS!
What makes a style a STYLE? This can be confusing when there are countless styles, sub-styles, and fusions of styles. A great listening exercise is to find a classic song that has been covered over many decades by many artists in many styles. Listen to at least 7 recordings of the song you choose. Compare the way various singers use their voices. Does each singer stick to the original melody? Are changes made to the phrasing, rhythm, or lyrics? What key is the song performed in? Which vocal registers are used? Does each singer use a wide range of dynamics? What about legato, staccato, or other musical devices? These questions can get you started on a path to really understanding the nuances of vocal style. Once you become aware of these nuances, you'll find it surprisingly easy to add new tricks that help make your style YOUR style!
Give your Larynx a BREAK! The Larynx's primary function is as a safety valve. It's designed to protect the lungs from being invaded by food, drink, and foreign objects. It also seals off the airway to assist with the act of heavy lifting and other physical tasks. During singing, it's vital that we override these anatomical functions. If we don't, the Larynx and vocal folds become too gripped and squeezed for healthy singing. Instead, we must allow air to flow through the Larynx at a small and steady rate. This allows the vocal folds to vibrate freely and make sound. Trying to sing without this steady airflow is the equivalent of driving a car with the BRAKE on! While braking is a natural function, it's time to let a little air through. Give your Larynx a BREAK!
It's time to put your Riffing skills into your SONGS! Start by taking a simple song that you know quite well. Sing it through once on the melody without changing anything. Next, sing it again - but this time see if you can add a Riff or two to some phrases. Start with two or three-note Riffs that are easy for you and go from there. Don't feel pressured to add too many. Only add them where they feel natural. Not sure where to place them? Just think of what the LYRICS mean to you. Riffs should be an extension of words that need emphasis or emotion. The best Riffs are not "showboaty", but are instead inspired by the lyrical content. If you practice this way, you'll be thrilled with what a difference there is in adding a tasteful Riff or two to your songs!
Is there a difference between Listening and Hearing? Absolutely! Hearing is the PASSIVE way we listen to a sound, while Listening is the ACTIVE way. Both skills are needed in order to master our singing. When we work on our vocal technique or perform, it's actually important to NOT listen to ourselves too carefully. To do so often tightens the body and the breathing system and causes us to be overly critical ourselves. Instead we want to FEEL the sound while Hearing ourselves more ambiently. The time to Listen is after the fact. Play back recordings of your lessons, practices, and performances. This is the best time to analyze and understand if your technique is translating. Your ears are an amazing tool! Just understand when it's time to Hear and when it's time to Listen!
Have questions about the WHISTLE Voice? Well, here are some answers! It's the highest vocal register of the human voice. It's produced by tightening the vocal folds until they no longer vibrate. A small space between the folds then creates a high-pitched "whistling" sound. This is similar to when we tense our lips and blow air through them. Now that a few questions have been answered, it's time to ask yourself a question: "Do I really NEED to develop this register of my voice?" Many singers grow obsessed with Whistle Voice because they hope it will make them like Mariah Carey. But the truth is, the Whistle Voice is very rarely used and can be quite fatiguing if done too often. Be curious about all your Vocal Registers, but use them with WISDOM!
Selecting the right Musical Theatre audition songs can be DAUNTING. Where do you start? Well, first try choosing a few actors or actresses whose careers you admire. What roles have they performed? What songs have they sung in concerts? What concept albums have they recorded? There are a wealth of excellent and unique songs to find by using an established Musical Theatre star's career as a starting point. For another easy place to start, check out the Internet Broadway Database (www.ibdb.com). It offers a comprehensive look at actors' and actress' Broadway credits. With this resource, you'll never run out of artists and shows to glean new song ideas from! Why not learn from the BEST?
DIET can play a crucial role in the longevity of our vocal folds. Our eating habits may contribute to LaryngoPharyngeal Reflux (LPR), which is one of the worst problems for vocal health. LPR is often referred to as "silent reflux" because its symptoms are less conspicuous than traditional heartburn. LPR can have very damaging effects on the voice as it often goes undiagnosed. Tips to avoid LPR include staying well-hydrated and avoiding excess consumption of spicy foods, caffeine, alcohol, and extremely fatty foods. While this may sound daunting, the key is MODERATION! Maintaining an intentional diet, workout plan, and positive lifestyle will not only promote physical and psychological well-being, but will foster freedom from LPR and a healthy voice as well!
Do you struggle with a vocal WOBBLE? A "wobble" is generally a Vibrato that is either too slow or that deviates from the fundamental pitch too far. Singers of all ages can develop wobbles, but it affects the aging voice even more. Luckily, there is hope! A wobble often is the result of singing too loudly, with too much force, with too much "weight", or with an overly depressed larynx. Some solutions include practicing straight tone, experimenting with volume control exercises, and becoming skilled with a lighter and brighter tone quality. Agility exercises can also help to shed excessive wobbly weight and speed up the movement of the vocal folds. So, if things are WOBBLING for you - take heart! Some simple steps should STEADY your sound soon!
Want to know of a singer that you should NEVER listen to? The singer who is singing before you at an audition! If they are good, it may make you feel inferior. If they are bad, it may give you a false sense of security. Either way, getting yourself into "competition mode" by listening in will stifle your creativity and prevent you from truly being yourself. Auditions aren't actually competitions. Instead, they are simply opportunities for the casting team to find the ideal fit for their project - and for YOU to be that person. Sometimes someone "better than you" will be cast. Sometimes someone "worse than you" will be cast. Either way, this is the wrong thinking. Don't look side-to-side at others. Look AHEAD... toward the wonderful audition you are about to give.
Maybe it's time to get out there! Are you eager to start performing as a soloist or in a band, but unsure of how to transition from singing in the shower or karaoke to gigging professionally? One great starting place is to attend Open Mic Nights! They are often held at restaurants, taverns, churches, or performance venues and allow singers and musicians to get onstage and perform together. Some are rather informal, while others are highly organized and require scheduling a time slot to get up and sing. Not only can these settings provide great performance practice with a live audience, but they're also an ideal way to network with other singers and musicians. Maybe it's time to get out there!
Mirror, mirror on the wall! Thou art a practice tool above all! While you shouldn't always practice singing in front of a mirror, an occasional check-in with your unbiased wall-mounted observer is very beneficial. Certain physical movements and tensions can become habits and eventually crutches if they are not eliminated. So, sing in front of your mirror from time-to-time to gain awareness of your own tendencies. Search for physical habits that distract from your singing or add tension to your instrument. See if you can achieve your best sounds without any undesired movements or tensions. Soon your mirror practice will reflect a polished performer and a technique that's the fairest of them all!
Less is MORE! When it comes to having confidence in our performances, LESS goes much further than we think! When we don't feel confident, we tend to do MORE. We look around a lot, we gesture with hands and arms, or we pace. But movement is about quality, not quantity. Trust that your acting and singing choices can speak for themselves. Even if you don't feel that trust yet, you can fake it by lingering a bit. Keep your eyes where they are for at least 3 seconds before moving them. Move your hands 5 times slower than you think they should move. Don't move your feet more than once per verse. Take a long pause physically somewhere in the song. Your audience will start to feel the importance and the GRAVITY of your acting choices. And that's what confident performing is all about! … more or less...
Did you know that when you sing a note, you're actually singing MANY notes all at once? It's true! The note you sing is called the "Fundamental Frequency". It's the lowest note present in the sound. But, there are many other higher notes present that are called "Overtones". Depending on how we shape our vocal tract (jaw, tongue, soft palate, lips, and larynx), certain Overtones become boosted and others become dampened. Vocal tone and timbre is largely affected by which Overtones are brought forth. Modifying vowels and making thoughtful adjustments to your vocal tract is how to achieve a clearer, louder, or more aesthetically pleasing sound. Imagine the infinite notes you can sing without ever changing pitch!
Need to make a last-minute demo recording for an audition or an agent? This is becoming a VERY common request these days. So, don't let technology and environment spoil your chances at success! After you've prepared your audition, carefully consider the device you're using and the acoustics of the room. Are you using a phone, camera, computer, or microphone? Any of them can work. But, make sure they capture your sound in the most advantageous way. Are you recording in a kitchen, bathroom, studio, or practice room? All spaces will have different acoustics and will feature your voice in different ways. Don't rush these acoustic details in your excitement to submit your audition. Instead, experiment until you find which combinations make you sound best. Let acoustics work FOR you, not against you!
Ask yourself an important question: "What does it mean to be a True Artist?" Your answer may dictate your future. Does it mean being famous? Does it mean making money? Does it mean supporting your colleagues? Does it mean loving your craft? Does it mean cherishing your vocal journey every single day of your life regardless of what people say? Does it mean finding your Joy? Or, something else? There's nothing right or wrong about any question you ask or answer you give. Just remember, the True Artist that you dream to be, may become a REALITY. Dreams can come true. So, make sure that what your soul TRULY wants lines up with the kind of Artist that you desire to become. If you're clear, you may look in the mirror one day and say - YES. This is exactly what I had hoped to do with my vocal gifts!
Imagine a person who embodies CONFIDENCE and AUTHORITY. How do you envision this person standing? Most likely, they are standing up straight with an elevated sternum, relaxed shoulders, and a long back of the neck. How do we achieve this ideal alignment? One great strategy is to imagine the top of the head "gently suspended from the ceiling by a silken thread." This image helps good posture to not feel "postured", but to feel SUSPENSORY instead. Any time you're feeling insecure, making this physical and mental adjustment is one of the most effective ways to communicate self-assurance nonverbally. This will promote positive feedback from others and cause you to embody this persona naturally over time!
Nasal Resonance doesn't mean sounding "nasal". In fact, when done right, Nasal Resonance is one of the most valuable tools for singers. "Bad nasal" involves vocal cord compression and laryngeal constriction that create a bright twangy sound. This often gets confused for Nasal Resonance. "Good nasal" involves head resonance without the squeezing. To discover this, try pinching your nose and speaking as you gently sigh. Do you notice a buzz in your nose or in the front of your face? If so, you've found Nasal Resonance! Once you've mastered this, try singing musical phrases with and without this trick. Finding Nasal Resonance independently of compressed "nasality" will offer your voice freedom like it has never had before. And, it will certainly be "good nasal"!